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‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Colman Domingo Interview With Spoilers

On this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, titled “The Portrait”, Strand (Colman Domingo) finally comes face to face with Morgan Jones (Lennie James). The latter wants help when Baby Mo gets sick with a double ear infection, while the former needs Morgan’s skills dealing with a group straight out of Mad Max who wants to take Strand’s tower stronghold. It leads to an unlikely team-up, and ultimately the revelation — and spoilers past this point — that Morgan used the opportunity to poison Strand.

“I love the dance that Morgan and I, Lennie James and I, get to do as actors because we have such a love and affection for each other, but then we know we have to go full out and battle each other,” Domingo told Decider.

By episode’s end, Strand has not only survived, he’s used Morgan’s life to get Grace (Karen David) and Baby Mo to live in the tower with him. But changing the balance of power, Morgan finally finds Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who has been off-screen since the end of last season. Only, in yet another twist, Strand has used a bunch of zombies with gas bombs implanted in their stomachs to attack the group, kicking us right into the mid-season finale next week.

To find out more about Strand’s villainous evolution, what Alicia’s return means for the balance of power, and how much danger Baby Mo was really in, read on.

Decider: I talked to Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss about this a bit at the beginning of the season, but what was your reaction when they approached you about Strand being this year’s main villain?

Colman Domingo: Well, it actually was the other way. I actually approached them about being the main villain, because I thought, where can we possibly go with Strand? We talked about this, we laid this foundation for it in season six, because I thought, we’ve seen Strand fall into the group, even against his better angels in some way. It didn’t offer much conflict anymore. I thought, “Well, after this fallout, where else does Strand go?” If Strand becomes a survivor and after all he’s done, I think the most interesting place for Strand to go, and he’s been poised for it for a long time, is to go the villainous route. I also thought it would be an interesting story point that we’ve never seen a villain grow from the inside of a group. We always see that we always stumble upon a villain and I thought, “Okay, maybe we’ve exhausted that. Why don’t we groom one from within? Strand has every reason to become one.”

They started setting that up in season six. By the time we got to season seven, it just made sense to go full out. Ian and Andrew were very excited about the idea of, “Why don’t we just see what Strand’s universe looks like? What is his civilization? What are the operating principles? How does it run?” They went wild with just how he cultivated everything from the museums and home, and art and history. Everything that Strand would say, “This is how we move civilization forward, and invest that into one tower.” And then with his whole operating systems, they’re a little pragmatic, and they’re a little, they’re problematic like any other system, but he’s trying to figure it all out.

He’s going hard or he’s going home. He doesn’t ease into his civilization. He’s like, “Oh no, it’s like this, I’m the top. I’m going to show you with my uniforms that I’ve culled from museums as well. I have a sword. I have art.” Everything about has size because he believes that’s what you need. He’s made decisions. He even said it in episode one where he says, “It can’t be about love. It can’t be about feelings. It has to be about operating principles to make this work. You have to put that aside,” because of what his experience is, how he’s watched Morgan fail because of it. He’s watched Madison, he’s watched Virginia and he’s like, “Okay, I’ve learned from some of the best. Now, let’s see how it works under my auspices.”

Can you talk a little bit about the General Strand outfit? Just putting that on for the first time, how that almost, it changes the way you hold the character?

That was designed initially by Jo Katsaras, one of our costume designers. And then fully realized even more so with Zureta [Schulz]. Everything about it, I was like, “Oh no, it has to be from museums. I think we have to go far. It can’t be subtle.” I think there’s no subtlety in it. As you know he’s in a uniform, he wants you to know that he is in charge every moment that you see him. When I put it on it felt good. You put on one of those, the 19th century jackets, and it just makes your body do something else. Your body sits up straight. The way you, if you have a sword… You can’t lean back. You’re always forward in some way.

I’m wearing cowboy boots with this slight heel on it. It makes me walk in a certain way. I love that we have this thick wooden heel on there so you hear me coming. It is all part of the character now. It’s like, “Oh, you hear,” he makes an entrance every single time. Every time I walk in they go, “Oh, here comes Strand.” That’s all intentional. It feels great. It does feel powerful.

And you also have a different voice you’re using this season. You always have a very resonant tone to your voice, but here it’s much sharper. You hit the ends of the line very hard. What led to that choice?

Each time, I’ve always started with the beginnings of Strand, knowing that he is a self-made man. That he created his Strand, whatever that is. Whether, it was in season one in the Ralph Lauren suits… There’s a certain way he wants to present himself, so he’s very conscious of that. We’ve also done that throughout the seasons. There are times when I have full facial hair, and there are times when I don’t. I would consciously say, “Well, I think that Strand is opening up a bit more, and he’s being a bit kinder and softer, so you can see his face.” That’s why we get rid of the facial hair. As he feels a bit more, he needs some more protection, he has a fuller beard.

When he needs even more authority, we made sure this season said, “Oh no, he’s going full beard because he needs a strong jaw and a strong presence. And that’s also done by Frieda Valenzuela, our head makeup artist. We designed the beard and also I thought, “Oh, his voice drops. He has to be very meticulous about how he speaks now, because every word he says has meaning because he is his own leader.” I wanted to drop, bring my voice even lower. Also, to be honest, I made a choice to go more for whisper at times, because he wants people to lean into him. That’s power. He said, “I’m not going to project all the way out there. You will listen in.” It’s a subtle thing about power, and he will use different, other tones that makes your ear know that he’s in power. It’s a little sharper.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Federica Rangel as Artist - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Lauren "Lo" Smith/AMC
Photo: Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC

I want to jump in and talk specifically about the episode… You start off with this great montage where he’s getting his portrait taken. Obviously Strand hates it, but it’s a very nice portrait of you. Did you get to keep it around, or did they actually destroy it?

[Laughs] No, our department made, I think, 10 copies of it in some way, to be done in different ways. They did gift me with one, so I do have one. I’m trying to figure out: where am I going to put it? Because I don’t want to put it in my house. Maybe it’ll be in my office at some point, but it’s really beautiful. I love the fact it’s so complicated because they said it was going to be really a beautiful portrait of me, but Strand is like, “But that’s not me. I’m ripped, torn, ugly, complicated, powerful.” He’s like, “I want a more complicated version of that. That looks like me, but that’s not me. I want you to really see me the way I see myself and the way the world sees me.”

Well, let’s talk about that then. This is jumping to the end of the episode, but it’s a really interesting thing that he has this portrait of himself that is ripped up. From a viewer’s perspective, it seems like, “Oh, he is broken inside. He’s putting up this front, but inside he is ripped apart.” Why does he want people to see that?

I think he wants people to see the truth, “Yes, I am the leader but I am complicated. I have a heart,” because people just see him, he has these arguments with Morgan, he keeps saying, “This is the way you really think about me? Is that what you, the way you see me? You need to see me in a more complicated way. I’m not just, I’m not vicious. I’m not hard. I’m not villainous. I am very complicated just like you are,” but everyone wants certain images of himself. I think he’s challenging. Whether it’s June, whether it’s Morgan, you name it about, “Who are you really? You’re projecting yourself as if you’re this heroic pious human being. You’re actually much more complicated.” I think he just wants the truth, that everyone’s broken. Everyone’s trying, everyone is complicated. Everyone needs love, everyone needs power and strength. I think he wants that more than anything.

One of the most stressful scenes is the one at the elevator shaft where he’s slowly lowering down baby Mo to Morgan, particularly because, and I assume it was mostly for close ups, but particularly because it’s a real kid there. What was it like filming with that baby?

Well, besides putting a child, knowing that you’re going to probably invest in a child’s therapy for many years… [Laughs] No, I’m just kidding. The child was very protected. We made sure that we had a stunt double for the baby, which was a doll, so we cut in between. There are times where we make sure that it’s a very safe area where we, the way they’re shooting. Heather did it beautifully, where we’re shooting the baby, the real baby, when we’re shooting the doll… It’s a really intricate dance that we do that hopefully makes it seamless, and you don’t recognize that at all. But we use a stunt doll for a lot of it, but then for closeups and more emotional things, we use the real child.

The other thing from a technical perspective is, you’re not just sweating in that scene, you are doused, buckets falling off of you. Did they have to just soak you between every take? Or how did that work?

They soaked me in between every single take. We don’t know about subtlety when it comes to sweat, because I feel like, they wanted to make sure that we knew that he was poisoned. And that it’s a high stress situation, he possibly could die. Everything that Morgan’s saying that, “If you turn, I want to make sure that baby is safe.” There’s that possibility, we don’t know what effect that this poison is going to do to Strand. It becomes a little Richard III, I think. The whole scene becomes a little Shakespearean. Being poisoned, not trusting anyone. Everything is high stakes. His body’s overheated and he’s about to pass out at any moment. I think that much sweat was necessary.

I love the turn there, that Morgan turns out to be the one who did, in fact, poison him. What was it like playing that moment for you, as Strand?

That was great. I love the dance that Morgan and I, Lennie James and I, get to do as actors because we have such a love and affection for each other, but then we know we have to go full out and battle each other. It all started when, at the end of season six, when Strand kicks Morgan into a bunch of walkers and runs away. I’m like, “Okay, this is going to be fun,” and so we get to have another one of those where it is wrestling.

I just look at it as sort of like, I don’t know why, but I look at it, I refer to it as sort of like Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot relationship of these two brothers. They both are of the same. What Strand has is the exact same thing as what Morgan has, but this wrestling over how to do it in ideology, but they’re trying to get the same thing. I think that’s why it really works, this opposite with Morgan, it works really well. I love playing it. Playing all those notes with Lennie. Lennie can do anything. He’s a superhero to me, and I love working with him.

I love slash hate the ominous moment at the end when he says, “Well, I’m the baby’s father now.” Why does he want to be the baby’s father? Is that another thing to have over Morgan? Does he legitimately think, “Well, now I’m going to be the best father because I’m Strand.” Or, what is his goal there?

I think yes, yes and yes. I think that he wants to have something over on people, but I think at his core, I remember when I read that, I thought, “Whoa, this is wild for Strand, wants the baby.” Again, I think the psychology of Strand, if he sat down with a therapist he would realize exactly why he’s doing what he’s doing. He’s not aware, but I think it’s, at the end of the day, he needs something that loves him without anything on it. Truly. I think that he really is looking for unconditional love, and I think that’s what that baby represents.

That’s what I think it is in the moment. I think Strand lives moment to moment. I think in that moment he’s like, “Bring me the baby.” “What I need right now is this. I need a hug or I need a kiss, or I need a slap,” but it’s moment to moment. In that moment he’s like, “I need the baby. Bring me the baby right now. That’s what I need to fill up this hole that’s inside of me. Something that doesn’t, it’s not complicated when it looks at me. It’s just going to see me as this thing this, that see me for who I am.”

I know they don’t interact, but after nine episodes, I think it’s nine episodes, we finally get to see Alicia at the end here. And then she gets attacked by Strand’s gas zombies. What is this going to do to their relationship going forward, as well as when he discovers that she is alive, and teamed up with Morgan?

I think it’ll continue to put a strain on their relationship. Their relationship is a very complicated one because it has so much history. She’s also the only one that Strand truly is tethered to in some way. I think even when he sent her away, I believe in season five, that was because he says, “Well, I have to do things that you won’t approve of. I have to be me, but in order to truly be me in all its complicated notes I have, I cannot see you.” Even in season seven A, he’s very concerned about, “Where is Alicia? Is she alive or is she dead?” Because it’ll complicate it one way or the other. If she’s dead, what does that mean to him? If she’s alive, what does that mean to him? “I need to know that that is, where that is, so I can control it,” because that’s the one thing he can’t control.

Congratulations on the season. It’s been so tense to watch.

It’ll get worse.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday at 9/8c on AMC, and a week earlier on AMC+.

Where to watch Fear the Walking Dead



https://decider.com/2021/11/28/fear-the-walking-dead-colman-domingo-the-portrait-interview/ ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Colman Domingo Interview With Spoilers

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